Cork flooring is a much discussed topic these days amongst homeowners and interior decorators. If youve heard about it and want to learn more about this popular material, this article is for you.
Cork, an all-natural product, is produced from the bark of the QuercusSuber tree, also known as the cork oak tree. It grows mainly in Portugal and Spain around the Mediterranean Basin. The bark is carefully harvested from the tree using hand tools. This is done in such a manner so that the tree is not damaged or injured. After the top layer of bark is stripped off, the tree then regenerates and grows a new bark. This process will take up to about nine years before the regenerated bark is ready for harvesting.
To maintain the integrity of cork oak trees and to prevent over-harvesting, a law was passed during the 1930s that stipulated that the bark could be stripped from a tree only once in nine years. Moreover, no tree that was less than twenty five years in maturitycould be harvested of its bark for the manufacturing of cork. Older trees provide better quality of cork, which is more mature and has a richer texture.
Once harvested, the bark is then sorted and stacked and left exposed to the elements for at least six months. The wind, sun, rain and air create continuous changes that enhance the apperance and the quality of the bark or the cork. When the cork is ready to be used, it is ground into small bits, mixed together with some adhesive and compressed under tremendous pressure; or baked to produce planks or tiles of cork.
In order to create a variety of patterns and colors, manufacturers burn the cork first before compressing. After burning, they then compress together different sizes of granules. Both of these processes work in tandem to produce the wide array of colors and designs that can be seen in the cork flooring available today.
Cork comes in a wide range of colors, shapes and designs. It is very durable as well as very lightweight. The cellular structure of cork allows its numerous chambers to be filled with air, which gives cork its sound and its shock absorbing properties. The shock absorbing quality makes it great for use in physical therapy centers and gyms as it is more forgiving on the joints. The sound absorption qualities make this an ideal choice for flooring in churches and libraries where silence is desired.
Cork is an environmentally friendly material in every way. It is a renewable resource as only the bark is used and the tree itself regenerates and produces new bark. Moreover, the bark is not just harvested to make cork flooring. It is first used to make wine stoppers,while it is the leftover bark that is then ground and compressed to make cork flooring. To keep it all natural and environmentally friendly, only finishes and adhesives that are water based are used.